When you have a children, your first instinct is to protect them. While nobody wants to think about the worst happening, it’s important to determine who will look after your minor children if you die unexpectedly, and how can you ensure that they are taken care of financially. Your will is a valuable tool that you can use to address these situations. Use it to make sure that your young loved ones will truly be protected the way that you want when you are gone. 

Arranging Legal Guardianship for Minor Children

Normally, when one parent dies, custody of the children automatically passes to the other parent. But if you should you both die at the same time, someone needs to take responsibility for your children, and you can use your will to name a legal guardian. There are a few criteria that you should consider when making your choice, including:

  • Willingness. The person that you nominate must be willing to say “yes” to the court, so be sure to discuss it with him or her ahead of time.
  • A good fit for your values. You may wish to choose a guardian with values, goals, and parenting beliefs that are similar to your own.
  • Financial security. The legal guardian that you choose should be financially able to support your children.
  • Character. Past criminal convictions, drug or alcohol abuse, or other negative personal history issues could impact whether or not the court allows the person to become a guardian.

Be sure you know your guardian well, as the court will ultimately have to approve your choice. If both parents have separate wills, it’s best that you both agree on the same person (and possibly even an alternate) to avoid legal trouble later on.

Inheritances and Minor Children

The best way to distribute assets to your minor children once you die is usually by using your estate plan to arrange for a trust. A trust allows you to have control over such things as:

  • How much money your children receive
  • How property and real estate are to be divided
  • How the money is to be distributed
  • How the money is to be used

A trust allows you to allocate your assets between multiple children as you see fit, which is particularly helpful if you have a child who has a physical or mental disability that will require long-term care.

Choosing a Trustee

When forming a trust for your children, you will need to appoint someone as a trustee. It’s important to choose someone that you believe will be financially responsible. He does not have to be the legal guardian that you’ve appointed. This may be helpful if you know that your chosen legal guardian may not be the greatest choice to handle the money or the paperwork involved in managing a trust. The trustee’s job is to:

  • Manage the trust’s assets until your children reach the age that you choose
  • Follow any written directions that you leave behind for the trust
  • Make sure that distributions are made per your wishes
  • File annual tax returns for the trust
  • Act in accordance with the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries

The trustee is generally not allowed to spend money as he pleases but is allowed to spend money on the health and welfare of your children. This usually includes spending for education, healthcare, and other living expenses.

If both parents should die and there is no will or trust documentation, the state’s rules of inheritance will automatically take over. It’s critical that you have a solid estate plan if you want to have a say in the financial well-being of your children.

Get Help With Your Estate Plan Now

While you can create a will without the help of a lawyer, it would be in your best interests to seek the services of a qualified professional to help you with your estate plan. An attorney can assist you in the creation of a solid plan that will ensure your wishes are followed should disaster strike.

The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny would like to offer you the help that you need with your estate plan today, because it’s never too soon to start thinking about the future. Please call us to arrange a consultation in our Bellevue law office at (425) 460-0550.


Molly B. Kenny
Connect with me
Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington